Carotid Artery Disease
Carotid artery disease occurs when the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the brain become narrowed.
As with other vascular diseases, narrowing of the carotid arteries is most commonly caused by atherosclerosis, sometimes referred to as hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a gradual process in which cholesterol accumulates to form a plaque that clogs the blood vessels.
Carotid artery disease can cause a stroke if blood flow is cut off, leading brain cells to die and impairing body parts that those brain cells control. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, paralysis or death.
Carotid artery disease develops slowly and often goes unnoticed before there are any symptoms. However, carotid artery disease can cause symptoms similar to a stroke, called transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs. TIA symptoms can last for a few minutes or as long as an hour and include:
- Sudden weakness, numbness or tingling on one side of the face or body, or in a single limb
- Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
- Change in vision, such as losing all or partial vision in an eye
If you experience a TIA, you may be at high risk for an impending stroke and should contact your physician immediately.